If the year has run away with you too, it’s November (already), also known as Movember - the leading charity in the UK for men’s health, raising awareness by changing our men’s faces with moustaches. One of the campaigns they lead is around men’s mental health and suicide prevention. And so, to celebrate the first of November, we are joining them. Because it’s an important topic and with new research on men’s mental health in the workplace - what better time to talk about it even more.
Image from movember.com
New research from Mind, the mental health charity, shows that men are twice as likely to experience mental health problems as a result of their work than problems outside of work . In a survey of 15,000 employees across 30 organisations, 1 in 3 men admit to struggling with their mental health due to the workplace, compared to 1 in 7 who say it's a result of problems outside of the workplace. On the other hand, women say that both their work and problems outside the workplace contribute equally to their poor mental health. So, why is this?
These findings may come as no surprise, we know the workplace can be stressful, demanding and energy consuming - with no reflection of our workplace - but working itself for men and women alike. However, this data, and perhaps as we suspected, suggests men are less prepared to seek help and take time off compared to women. Statistically, 43% of women said they have taken time off work due to poor mental health at some point in their career, compared to only 29% of men.
The survey suggests that despite men being more likely to experience a mental health problem at work, women are more likely to open up about their experiences and seek support from their employers. Previous research has highlighted that men typically prefer to deal with their problems independently. Rather than sharing their problems, they prefer to do things like exercise, watch TV or self-medicate, such as drinking alcohol. And while these things can alleviate our stressors, and even symptoms of mental health issues, they don’t tackle the whole picture, get to the root cause, or work alone.
The same survey also showed that 74% of line managers feel confident in supporting employees with their mental health, and feel they have a good understanding of how to promote mental wellbeing of staff. While mental health may be promoted throughout workplaces, and have support available, it can only be offered and used if people feel able to ask for it. The additional mental health support cannot be given if we do not know of the problem in the first place.
Putting on a brave face
It’s not news to us that men typically find it more difficult to be open about their problems, stressors, and mental health than women. We’ve been encouraging men to be open and talk more for some time, and while leaps and bounds have been made, it is clear that we need to keep encouraging men further.
Putting on a brave face can often worsen our issues, whatever the cause. Whether we’re choosing to ignore things, sweep them under the rug or falsely tell ourselves it’s all fine. But a lumpy rug will trip us up. Ignoring our mental health, and the strains on it, can see it taking over our lives - making it difficult to meet our responsibilities, like working, paying bills, meeting our basic needs, not to mention the things we really like to do like spending time with the kids, the dog, our friends and family, our hobbies, and things that bring us joy.
Movember’s (the leading men’s health charity) suicide prevention campaign, Be A Man Of More Words encourages the need for strong social connections, so that men feel able to talk about the stuff that really matters. It isn’t about ramping up the banter, but about carving out space for meaningful chats about the bigger stuff in life, because the right conversation can make all the difference to a bloke who might be struggling.
If we can dig a little deeper, encourage men to do the same, we can help prevent more men from reaching a crisis point. So this November, join us in encouraging men to have those conversations.
With friends and family being open with the people we love and trust can help us feel less alone, get support with things like home and family life, and can give the space to vent with people with similar experiences. The people we love and trust, who want to support us, need to know what’s going on for us so they can help us in the right way.
In the workplace, with line managers and employers, if men are more likely to experience poor mental health as a result of work, having open conversations at work is important. To help us manage our workloads and demands, take time off to recover or return to work after a period of time away. To help support us with issues we’re facing outside of work that are impacting our ability to work.
With professionals, healthcare providers, the GP, because professional support can be the difference between continuing to struggle or feel unseen or heard and being able to live a satisfying life, where we feel content despite mental health struggles, poor health, or the daily stress of life itself. These professionals are trained experts in supporting us, and are able to equip us with the tools to help us manage our mental health.
These conversations need to go further than just our mates, to be supported in all aspects of our life and by the right people - which some of our friends might be. However, the help of a trained professional can really make a difference in the prevention of reaching crisis points. Share this blog, hashtag on social media, raise awareness in your workplace and encourage yourselves, your mates and our men to keep talking and open up.